How to Care for your Phalaenopsis Orchid


Phalaenopsis (Blume 1825) is a genus of approximately 60 species of orchid(family Orchidaceae).

The generic name originates from the Greek phalaina, "moth" and opsis, "like", descriptive of the inflorescences of some species, which resemble moths in flight.
For this reason, the species are sometimes called Moth orchids. They are native throughout southeast Asia from the Himalayan mountains to the islands of Polillo and Palawan of the Philippines and northern Australia. Orchid Island off Taiwan is named after this orchid.

Phalaenopsis shows a monopodial growth habit. An erect growing rhizome produces from the top one or two alternate, thick and fleshy, elleptical leaves a year. The older, basal leaves drop off at the same rate. The plant retains in this way four to five leaves. If very healthy, they can have up to ten or more leaves! They have no pseudobulbs. The raceme appears from the stem between the leaves. They bloom in their full glory for several weeks. If kept in the home, they usually last two to three months, which is considered quite a long time. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

The name Orchidaceae is derived from the supposed resemblence of the corolla or petal tube to the orchis gland in the human male reproductive system.

Things You'll Need

    Light
    Water
    Fertilizer
    Potting Mix
    Hygrometer - measures humidity
    Thermometer
 Step One
Phalaenopsis Need LIGHT - Bright indirect sunlight. A South or East window is ideal for most types of orchids. Orchids need filtered sunlight on their leaves for at least several hours, as duration is at least as important as intensity. Sheer curtains work very well at filtering light. Strong direct sunlight on leaves should be avoided in most cases. The leaves of most orchids should be a medium bright green color. Yellow-green leaves may indicate excessive light. Leaves that are a very dark green, thin and soft are not receiving enough light. Many growers use fluorescent lights as you would for other flowering plants. Keep the plants 3 - 6 inches below the bulbs. If your orchid is not flowering, lack of light may be the reason. Increasing your light levels may help.
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Step Two
Phalaenopsis are TEMPERATURE sensative - The best temperature range is 75-85 degF. Do not allow you orchid to go below the minimum temperature of 60 degF. Do not exceed a maximum temp of 90 degF. They tolerate higher better than lower temperatures. When in flour, plants should be kept above 70 degF.
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Step Three
Phalaenopsis need WATER - Water is especially critical for Phalaenopsis . Because they have no water storage organs other than their leaves, Phalaenopsis must never completely dry out. Watering frequency is a function of the medium in which the plants are grown. Phalaenopsis in a peat-based mixture: By checking the top inch of the peat mixture it is easy to tell when a plant needs watering. When the top inch is dry, the plants are ready for watering. Plants should be evenly watered, and not watered again until the top inch of the soil medium is dry. To prevent diseases from occurring, water only in the morning so that the leaves are dry by nightfall. When plants are in bud or in flower increase watering to keep flowers fresh longer; plants in bud and flower need a little extra water. Remember to water only the medium, and not the crown (center) of the plant. Water sitting on the crown of the plant will cause crown rot. This is usually fatal to the plant.
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Step Four
Phalaenopsis need HUMIDITY - A range of 55-75% humidity is ideal. A cool air humidifier (sold in any drug store) nearby may be necessary to achieve the proper humidity. You can also try sitting the pot on top of a plate with rocks and water as an evaporator.
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Step Five
Phalaenopsis need occasional FERTILIZER - Phals are "heavy" feeders, particularly when in full growth. During the Spring through early Fall, fertilizing every seven days, with several clear waterings in between. In the late Fall through Winter, a light feeding once a month will suffice. Use 30-10-10 (or other high nitrogen fertilizer) at 1/2 recommended dosage.
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Step Six
Phalaenopsis need RE-POTTING yearly - Phalaenopsis orchids are best repotted in the spring after they have finished blooming. Repotting Phalaenopsis often initiate a growth cycle. Phalaenopsis must be potted in a well-drained mix. For best results repot annually. A mature plant may remain in the same size pot for years, but for best growth the medium should be changed annually. To repot, remove all of the old medium from the roots, trim away any soft, rotted or broken roots. Spread the remaining roots over a handful of medium in the bottom of a new pot. Fill the rest of the pot with medium, working it through the roots, so that the junction of the roots and the stem is at the top of the medium. A drench with vitamin B1 solution may be helpful in establishing newly repotted plants. Two Phalaenopsis mixes used with success are:
1) A sphagnum moss-based mix consisting of 50% sphagnum, 25% medium charcoal, and 25% medium perlite.
2) A coconut husk-based mix containing 50% coconut husks, 25% medium charcoal, 20% perlite, and 5% redwood chips. Coconut may contain salt, so wash it, and soak for three days to remove the salt. You do not want any salt content remaining in the mix. Check with a meter if necessary. Both mixes should be made in advance and be allowed to soak overnight before using. Use a couple of inches of rocks or packing peanuts (water proof ones) in the bottom of the pot before re-potting to insure good drainage. Select a new pot based on the size of the trimmed roots, NOT the size of the plant. Use a pot only slightly larger than the new area of the roots. Be careful not to overpot.
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Step Seven
To get your Phalaenopsis to RE-BLOOM - Phalaenopsis orchids usually only bloom once a year (Dec-Feb). Most initiate spike formation in the fall and are in flower in mid to late winter.

After most of the flowers on your Phalaenopsis have started to wilt, you have 3 options:

1) Cut the bloom stem back to the base, with a hot knife or shears, then apply a broadbase fungicide such as Physan20, Dithane M-45, or 50% Captan . The old stem is still living tissue and can become infected with fungus, thus threatening the Phal. Or you can allow the bloom spike to dry naturally, then break it off at the base. Waiting until the spike is dry precludes possible fungal infection in the old stem. Removing the stem allows the plant to start storing up extra energy for it’s next phase of growth, and next years blooming.

2) You can can do nothing. Just let the flowers wilt and fall off. Some plants will produce a keiki (a baby plant) from the tip of old flower spikes if you don’t cut the flower spike off after all the flowers have fallen off.

3) You can try to encourage the plant to re-bloom from the existing flower spike. To do this, look closely at the flower spike, and you will see that it appears to have what appear to be “joints” spaced every few inches along the entire length of the flower spike. The correct name for these are “nodes”. These nodes are the locations where flowers and secondary flower spike branches emerge from the main flower spike. Do not remove the flower stem until ALL of the nodes have developed. Cut the flower spike off, about 3/4” above the third lowest “node or joint”. This will encourage the plant to produce a secondary flower spike from one of the previously unbloomed flower spike nodes. You should see new blooms within 8-12 weeks.

Cut the spike off entirely by mid-summer to allow your plant to regain it's strength for next year’s blooms.

Only a slight change in temperature is needed to initiate re-blooming. Phalaenopsis in general requires a 15F to 20F differential to initiate a spike. As long that temperature differential is maintained for at least 2~4 weeks, the plant should be able to initiate a spike. In early to mid fall, expose it to night temperatures of about 55 F with day temps. above 65, this may coax it to initiate the bloom cycle. Also, at the same time, do not feed it fertilizer but mix one teaspoon of epsom salt in a quart of lukewarm water and water it. Feed it the epsom salt mix for three watering cycles
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Step Eight
To PROPAGATE your Phalaenopsis -
Phalaenopsis can be vegetatively propagated by two methods. The first method is by cutting the flowering stem above a stem internode, the dormant growth "eye" is covered with a triangular sheath. Cut, with a hot knife or shears, through the flower stem after the last flower has fallen. Then move the plant to a dimmer area. In most cases, new plants will start from the dormant "eyes ". After the new plants initiate, the the mother and "keikis " (babies) can be move gradually back to higher light. When the keikeis have 2-3 " roots, the "keikis " can be removed, by slicing between the the stem and the keikei, or cutting the stem above and below keikei's attachment point. The new plant can now be potted up and grown on. If more flowers are desired, cut the stem as above, but do not move the plant. In the second method, the mother plant is topped. As a monopodial plant, Phals continue to grow vertically. In time, they discard their lower leaves. The leaves have served as a storage vessel of water and nutrients. The leaves have outlived their usefulness and are discraded. New roots are produced above the leafless stem, as the Phal continues growing vertically. The stem can be cut below the new roots. The top part, with leaves and roots, can be repotted after proper care of the cut. The remaining stub can be left as is, for a few days/weeks. Soon, new little plants will be found growing out of the old stub. These keikeis can be repotted in the same manner as the first method. They will grow on and eventually bloom. If left on the stub, they will often bloom sooner, than if individually potted.
Overall Tips & Warnings

    For reblooming, you can also try this: Stop watering it for a few weeks (but don't let it dry completely out!) and move it to a slightly darker spot. After a few weeks (sometimes months depending on how young the plant is) you hopefully will see a new spike with small buds. Move the plant back to a sunnier location and increase the watering schedule. Moth orchids like medium or filtered light. Morning sun or a west window is great.
    The flower spikes appear from the pockets near the base of each leaf. The first sign is a light green "mitten-like" object that protrudes from the leaf tissue. In about three months, the spike enlongates until it begins to swell fat buds. The buds will thus bloom. Usually you can tell what color the phalaenopsis is by looking at the bud color.
    Once a flower spike emerges it will take a month or two to mature. Stake this spike gently as it grows to ensure that the spike gets some height before it produces buds. Continue to give plants bright light. Also do not change their orientation to the light once the first buds can be seen as this will cause them to twist about and spoil the otherwise prefect symmetrical display. Buds will eventually emerge along the spike, and open in succession.
    After the flowers fade, some people prefer to cut the spike above the highest node (section). This may produce another flower spike or more rarely a keiki (a baby orchid plant that can be planted). However, the flower spike produced this way will not yield good quality flowers.
    Some people seal cuts to the plant stem with melted candle wax or a dusting of cinnamon powder (a natural fungicide) to prevent bacterial infection instead of using chemical agents.
    Humidity levels below 50% can result in the premature loss of buds and flowers.
    Moth orchids but are susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections which can result in brown spots or rotted areas on leaves, which can quickly lead to the demise of plants. Carefully cut out infected tissue at the earliest sign of infection with a sterile blade, and spray plants with a fungicide/bactericide such as Physan. Sprinkling the affected areas with cinnamon will also help.
    Moth orchids are especially susceptible to small amounts of gas often leaking from heating units etc. in the home. This can cause the flowers to wilt and buds to drop.
    Do not subject budding moth orchids to sudden temperature changes as this may cause buds to drop. Make especially sure plants do not dry out, as this may also also cause bud blast.


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